Monday, November 21, 2011

Some great ebook finds for homeschooling

I prefer real hard copy paper books to ebooks any day.  There is nothing like a feeling of reading or even paging through a favorite book or looking at beautiful illustrations or seeing a child do the same.  It's certainly one of my favorite pastimes.  I just love books and ebooks and kindle files are just not the same.  But having said that, there are quite a few advantages to utilizing ebooks in one's home education.  Because it is cheaper to produce ebooks, pdf ebook files are often more cost effective than their paper counterparts, probably even if one uses a printshop service to print them out.  The fact that they are instantly downloadable, especially if one lives somewhere where books in english are harder or more expensive to obtain is also a huge plus.  If the book is a workbook type of a book, it's simpler to use it with multiple children, one simply can print out more than one copy of each lesson, so these books are not consumable which only diminishes the over all cost of the ebook.  Also, the information available in these ebooks is not always available from other sources. These books are often written by other homeschooling parents or educators sharing their experience, expertise and passion for their subject, which make the information provided all that more valuable. In addition, sample lessons or pages are often provided, so one could get a good feel for what one is getting.   So here are a few interesting ones I came across recently which I am considering buying at some point to enhance our studies.
Roots and Fruits Vocabulary Curriculum for K-12 -  I was looking for a good roots based way to teach vocabulary or really for any good way to enrich the children's vocabulary, in addition to just reading good books.  This program looks very promising, it gives a parent a nice framework for how to teach the above for different age groups, it's not very time consuming or labor intensive, doesn't require any exotic materials and one can plug in one's own vocabulary words if so desired or one can use the words supplied.  It's compatible with the Charlotte Mason/Classical education type approach.  Out of everything I've seen so far I like this program best and compared to the other pricey things out there, this one is very cheap.  No need to buy many workbooks or study guides or anything else -a no frills, customizable program which packs a great educational punch.
Writing with the Best I and II - another interesting looking curriculum from the same author as Roots and Fruits.  This one teaches great descriptive writing through modeling techniques of great world literature.  Again short lessons are used to teach grammar, proof reading, literary analysis, listening comprehension among other things in addition to good writing, using varied genre of literature.  Again, this program can be used with multiple ages and later applied to one's personal choices of literature.  This writing program is CM/Classical HS compatible. So this too looks very promising.
Here are another two helpful books for CM/Classical homeschooling -Delightful Dictation With Spelling and The Dictation Treasury by C.S. Fairfax, great for copywork, dictation and teaching spelling in context. Both are available as cheaper ebooks from, can be used with multiple age groups, customized for one's personal tastes and generally make things easier for both students and parents without sacrificing quality. 
The Phonics of Drawing - I've been looking for a drawing course that was engaging, comprehensive enough, easy to teach and affordable.  I haven't been able to find something comprehensive enough among all the free art lessons available online, especially for the elementary age.  We've tried Drawing With Children but I've been unable to use it with the kids successfully on a consistent basis.  There are blogs by a few homeschooling moms that made their own lessons to go with the book which I might use in addition to this program or afterwards.  This program though, looks more user friendly for what I think we need right now.  So I am very excited about this find.  There are also other courses available on the same site, if one wants to continue further - watercolor painting, working with pastels and other media, etc.  There are cheaper and more expensive options for later on but for the beginners there seem to be quite a few affordable options to try out.
Drawing on History here is another interesting idea for combining the study of art and history.  It's for an older age group but I think it might be adaptable for an upper elementary age or modified.   Either way it's something to consider.
And finally here is a link to a set of ebooks that teach one to map the world  by heart using various techniques.  I've been eyeing Mapping The World By Heart on amazon for a number of years but it remains very expensive.  Yet, it is something I really wanted to do with my children.  So this option looks good - using simple lines and mnemonic devices the author  teaches one to recreate world maps from memory, he says he used this program successfully teaching his children aged 8 and 9, to memorize  the whole thing within a few months. I think this might be something we might enjoy.  We happen to have a few real geography enthusiasts around here:) I've read in a few places that map drawing, coloring, etc is a good way to teach chilldren geography during the elementary years.
So here are my latest ebook finds of interest.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The goings on

Here is what we have been up to in the last week and a half.  We are continuing with Mammoth Math, finishing up Multiplication 2 and Division 2. We've been doing many word problems that included many topics like fractions, beginning equations, working with decimals, as well as different problem solving strategies. I am glad the boys are getting a lot of practice with these.  Ds9 has once again requested we do some geometry once we are done, I've been planning on doing just that, so that will probably be the next topic.  The boys are enjoying Grammar Land and have no difficulty in doing the exercises that go with the text.  I am happy they like it because the language and the vocabulary is by no means simple.  I do think that they would need some additional something to reinforce all the concepts covered. We started doing some history of Ancient Greece last week.  Ds8 really likes the Great Wonders of the World by Russel Asch so he has been getting a lot of informal history but ds9 needs some encouragement in the history department.  I am hoping once we start the Guerber book he'll be more interested.  In copy work we have moved on into cursive in our Italics Beautiful Handwriting for Children and the boys are doing better than I expected, it really is an easier transition after using Italics print.  We didn't get to do science last week, at least not formally.  We didn't get to bake together or do any projects, we were just too busy with other things.  But I am hoping to get to some of it this week and as I wrote before, I am trying to add a thing or two every week as we get more settled into the routine.  There was a lot of free- form arts and crafts by all the interested parties, mostly by the younger set. Dd5 wanted to do some worksheets like her older brothers, so I printed out some math for her to try out.  She had no difficulty with counting but did have a hard time copying actual numbers and she did enjoy coloring her pages afterwards.  Over all I don't think it was a great success, so I am thinking of trying something else with her.  What did work, as I saw suggested on a CM blog, was tracing over letters. She didn't have any trouble with that and in fact requested we do that again.  We did get to read out loud, especially with the little ones.  I really hope we get to do more of that with everyone. Ds9 does plenty of independent reading on his own.  We went back to geography this week.  We started out with some review - continents, hemispheres, longitude, latitude and other geographical terms.  I am hoping to cover various landforms and their defintions this week.  I found some good worksheets and some montessori materials on the subject.  So that's on the agenda. The boys have been doing their mazes as well and had a good time constructing with plasticine and straws and old pencils. We listened to music and some story tapes, there was still plenty of outdoor time for playing and swinging, etc, some of the kids made it to the library some of the time. Lots of good discussions on many subjects.  Dh is particularly good at that and so it happens quite naturally and regularly.   Ds1.5 loves to be outside, whether to watch birds,think or play.  I really love this age.  He also learned to drink with a straw and is quite a pro now with drinking from a cup, building towers with big Leggoes and simple ball playing, so sweet.  The boys are making really nice progress with their Tae Qwan Do and are very excited about it. Ds9 has been pushing for music lessons, we really need to find something local at some near point in the future.  I've been reading many CM blogs and such to reinspire myself but also to get some new ideas to try with the younger set.  So I've been looking into CM way of teaching reading for example.  I've been also looking into ways to add picture study into our schedule in the coming weeks and some more geography ideas.  I've found some more suggestions for living history books which might come in handy.  And as always, collecting ideas for future craft projects.  So we've been busy:)  I am still trying to find a perfect balance for all these activities but most of the time we follow a flexible schedule for some of the time and play it by ear for the rest, which seems to work out just fine.  Over all I think we have succeeded in keeping thing relatively positive, various kids have been having various disciplinary issues, but for the time being we are doing the best we can and as I said, for most part things do fall into place.  I've been looking for some ideas as to how to add vocabulary and drawing into our studies.  I've found some interesting possibilities, to be posted later.  And so it goes, thank G-d.

Friday, November 11, 2011

And a few more links of interest

Here are a few more links that might be of interest to home educators.
These two are from Homeschool Freebie of the Day: - lots of printable mazes and other puzzles. Mazes are supposed to be very good for brain development in children.
Some art history lessons
Here is a link to a blog with lots of links to different resources in many subjects to explore

Fall Crafts and Other Crafty Links

Well, fall has finally come to Israel.  It looks, feels and smells like fall.  We even had a few first rain storms of the year.  Clementines and persimmons are suddenly in season.  I really love fall and I would really love to do some crafting with the kids, even though I am not sure how much of it will be realisticall possible this year. These links are worth saving for the future as well.  I can't wait to try some of these, sooner or later:) Happy crafting!
Lots of great fall projects from Pink and Green Mama - just search under fall leaves
A great collection of art ideas on trees from Harmony Art Mom
Lots of creative fall projects from the Crafty Crow
Fall Leaf Butterflies
Plaster Leaf Project
And other crafting inspirations:
Popsicle stick bracelets
Great quilling art examples
Art journal page idea from

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Some interesting links for learning science

I was looking for some ideas on teaching science at home and some book recommendations (something I never seem to get enough of:)).  So here are a few links that I came across in my research.  What I really like about these sites, is that one finds many good book suggestions that include books both old and new, many of which I had not seen on other homeschooling sites. I spent a lot of time browsing through these:) Enjoy!
And two more:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Some history reflections and links

As I have written previously, I've been looking for a history curriculum for a long while now but all to no avail.  I didn't come across a single one that I 'd find suitable, most were too slanted one way or another or hopelessly PC or had a very clear political agenda.  It seems the study and teaching of history has really suffered in the recent decades. Historical revisionism is very prevalent these days even when it doesn't go by that name. It's really quite disturbing.  The many falsehoods written and prapogated about the Arab-Israeli conflict is just one blatant example (see here for a good article demonstrating the above)but unfortunately there are others.  Now, I could understand  that sometimes there could be different interpretations of  a single set of events even propaganda but what we are seeing today is an elimination of facts if they don't suit someone's fancy or an invention of a whole new set of facts out of whole cloth. One sees it in books, articles, academic lectures, etc.  In general, once upon a time a person couldn't be considered truly educated, unless he was a student of history. This was how one learned about how the world works, what makes human beings tick, what lessons could one learn from the past that could be applicable for the present and the future. These days one sees tremendous ignorance, confusion and distortion, as well as the inability to understand that by discounting the past, one cripples oneself in the present.  So I decided to follow the living book route a la Charlotte Mason and continued to read up on the subject. There is a lot of interesting and valuable reading material out there - some of these are living books in their own right.  Here are a few:
Practicing History by Barbara Tuchman- lots of great perspective on history teaching, learning, writing etc.  She also lists some great history writers of the past to illustrate what great historical writing is all about.  Probably all her many other books on history are living books and a worthwhile read too.
Begin Here by Jaques Barzun - even though the author applies himself mainly to the critique of public school education there is still plenty to learn for anybody interested in the subject.
Unqualified Education by Gareth Lewis - there is a whole section in this book on learning history at home, with lots of great suggestions as to how to go about it, as well  as a discussion of what is wrong with the way history is taught today.  I disagree with the author's political views but he has a lot to offer as far as practical educational advice is concerned.
Finally, I stopped looking for a curriculum per say and started looking into how people learn and teach history in their home and then I started to find some interesting recommendations.  Some vintage history authors came up, one was Helene A. Guerber's history series in particular.  And some of these books are available in the public domain and some have been republished and some made available as ebooks.
Many years ago, back in the States, we lived next to a great library, one of the interesting things in that particular library was that they had a few shelves of these really old books one could borrow.  My children were too small at the time but I took some out for myself and was greatly impressed with the quality of content and language.  So these might be very useful in our history studies.  Here are a few links where some of these  books are available for the modern reader.
Heritage History - lots of old books in many categories, as well as ebook files for very reasonable prices, illustrations, maps, study guides.  I would pre-read the ones that are of interest to make sure there is nothing objectionable in them, some creative editing might be required in some places when using as a read aloud. So far I was favorably impressed. - another site where on could read these oldies online, they have a companion website where these could be bought as books or ebooks.
Project Gutenberg also has some of these but I like the format better on the above two websites.
So I think this is the plan for now, to start reading to the kids about ancient history with some of these, after all ancient history hasn't really changed.  I also keep a list of other living books that are of a more recent vintage that might be interesting to us.  I've read a few chapters from the Guerber Ancient histories and they were really very engaging, well written and informative.  We'll see how it goes:)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Back to work

Here is another belated post. Sigh.  The last two weeks were spent getting back into the swing of things with our lessons.  I always find the kids are excited to get back to doing things after a nice long break, like the one we've had.  So here is what we've been up to.  We are continuing with Mammoth Math, finishing up Multiplication 2 and Division 2.  It is a nice thorough program, with lots of practice examples to make sure mastery is achieved.  However, there is a certain amount of overlap between various units, which sometimes can prove to be an overkill and sometimes allows one to skip some units altogether.  Once we are done with this, we'll continue with Fractions 2 and I really would like to do some geometry with the boys this year.  We are continuing with Beautiful Italics for copywork.  Ds9 requested some spelling work, so I am looking at various possibilities, Zaner-Bloser has a free program here which is one possibility or The Natural Speller it the other one I've been considering.  But I haven't made up my mind yet.  We've started Grammar Land by M.L. Nesbitt and the boys like it and we do the exercises in the end of each chapter.  I am trying out some chemistry lessons from Ellen McHenrey's free downloads to see how he boys will like it and we'll decide whether to continue or try something else.  We've done some baking together, which everyone enjoys.  There has been a lot of free form crafting by all those so inclined.  I started doing some more formal math with dd5 and dd3.5 is also making nice progress with counting and other basics.  We've listened to some classical music, the youngest two would dance to pretty much anything.  The boys are making nice progress with their English reading with ds9 finally getting to the point where he would consider reading something in English to himself of his own free choice, thank G-d.  Ds8 is getting better but we definitely need to do some phonics review with him.  He is also very into science and history these days so I am hoping to add more of this kind of stuff as we get more settled with all the basics.  They are doing fine with their Hebrew reading, writing, grammar, etc in the workbooks we are using. The weather has been very mild for most part so everyone still spends a lot of time outdoors, playing, swinging, watching birds, contemplating life, etc.  We've done quite a lot of reading out loud catering to various interests and had many great discussions on a variety of subjects as the result - Einstein, nuclear reactors, astronomy, current events, to name a few topics that come to mind.  I am still trying to come up with  a suitable schedule which will work best for all of us.  There are so many things that I'd like to be able to do with them and so many individual needs and interests that I'd like to address but I guess it will have to wait a little more and sometimes just going with the flow to a certain extent is an acceptable solutions for the time being too.  In the coming week, I am hoping we'll get to do some more formal history and geography and art would be nice too as would be an official crafting project day but it might have to wait another week if we can't fit it in:)  I have lots of great links to post for many, many subjects, which is another project for the upcoming week.  Overall, I think we are making good progress, even though some days are rockier than others and many times the lessons take a whole lot longer than I expected.  I really hope they will be able to do more independent work in the future but for now I feel I need to invest the extra time to gets things off to a good start and besides we like spending this time together:) To be continued...